REVIEW: Dianne Reeves at Berklee Performance Center Sat. Feb. 8th

Written by on February 14, 2020

by Doug Hall, WICN Live Performance Reviewer

Photo courtesy of Jerris Madison

The voice as an instrument in the hands of a masterful performer never disappoints an audience. At Berklee Performance Center, Saturday evening, Dianne Reeves showed once again that her depth of vocal range, purity of sound ability to take an audience through the note scale via improvisational scat-style singing, is a beautiful vehicle for Jazz and all other genre of songs. With a collection of career awards in the field of singing and Jazz, including 5 Grammy Awards, an honorary doctorate of music from Julliard, and named a 2018 National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master, Reeves seemed ready to relax and share her vocal gift with a near sold-out show at the Berklee Performance Center, presented by Global Arts Live. The crowd was clearly appreciative as a listening audience and rewarded with a mixed sampling from Reeves’ songbook, crafting her voice to each song.

The performance began with just the four band musicians on stage, some members having been with Reeves since the 1980s. Peter Martin, musical director and pianist, led the band into a blues tempo for other members to warm up on, and the results were pure improvisational wonder. Long-time band partner, guitarist Romero Lubambo played soft note scales with expert fluidity, and bassist Reginald Veal, who would play both electric and stand-up bass, drove a resounding bassline, and filling in the rhythm was Terreon Gully on drums and cymbals, with a steady resonant beat.

Taking the stage to hearty applause, Reeves effortlessly launched into a soft-voicing of the classic love ballad “The Twelfth of Never” by Paul Francis Webster, a song made popular originally by Johnny Mathis, but with the emotional Jazz-phrasing, she soared from highs to lows within an intimate moment. Offering another direction, Reeves returned to her superb rendering of Pat Metheny’s “Minuano (Six Eight),” a singer’s vehicle to soar to the heavens in just voice. Starting by taking her audience back to the roots of music with just low voice tones against the steadily building rhythm of drumming by Terreon Gully, Reeves then began to climb the octave’s slowly, exploring each range, creating her own interpretation of Metheny’s melody made famous by South American singer Pedro Anzar. A fantastic solo turn was taken by Brazilian guitarist Lubambo, who followed with a soft scale of notes climbing to the crescendo that Reeves tops off at the end to create what felt like the single most powerfully moving Jazz-improvisational piece of the evening.

Often reintroducing herself to the audience, sometimes “scat” singing her words, Reeves exuded a powerful spirit of joy on stage, with an enormous smile that the audience fed back to her in kind. Spontaneously taking herself back to a nightclub-feeling ballad with a refrain of her lover in song “being everything that I adore” in varied flavors of her voicing, she changed the tempo of the evening once again.

Later in the set, Reeves shared a story about a favorite composition, “That’s All,” made famous by Nat King Cole, and originally played early in her career with close friend and musical soul-mate, 3-time Grammy Award winning Jazz drummer and composer Terri Lynn Carrington (who has just become the Artistic Director of Jazz and Gender Justice at Berklee College of Music). That night, both musicians were last minute stand-ins at a local nightclub in Boston in the ‘80s and hadn’t been able to rehearse their set (or this song) before performing. Reeves spoke about the importance of “always being prepared for the unprepared moment.”  This evening’s version of “That’s All” allowed Reeves more room for vocal improvisation before pianist Peter Martin took off with a beautiful upbeat tempo solo to add a wonderful close to the song.

Also finding an opportunity to showcase longtime band member Lubambo’s South American roots on acoustic guitar, Reeves started Alan Bergman’s “Like A Lover” with a soft vocal touch and then passed the melody to Lubambo for an exquisite solo. Another highlight that evening was a return to her jazzy cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Dreams.” With particular emotional emphasis and refrain, particularly on the line “players only love you when they’re playing,” Reeves again added her signature to this familiar song.

Finishing off the set, Reeves delivered the lyrics of Peggy Lee’s “I’m In Love Again,” a classic love ballad that again shows off the trademark intimate voicing that she brings to making a melody her own. Given the score of musical arrangements she has embodied as covers in her career, and this evening’s testament to her voice’s prowess still holding strong, the audience was left wanting more—the mark of a truly supreme musical talent.  

About The Author:

Doug Hall currently writes Jazz music reviews, Jazz performance reviews and profiles including interviews in the Boston and NYC areas for performances, and writes about all genres of Jazz. Doug publishes primarily for Alllaboutjazz.com, Glide.com, DigBoston.com and now WICN.

During the summer, he’s involved with the Newport Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival, as he writes promotional previews before the event and follow up reviews of performances. In addition, he has written Jazz-related profiles and covered performances for the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He continues to be passionate and committed to writing about the art and evolving history of jazz. Particularly, he wants to promote the sharing of this music so original and a part of the roots of America – and who we are.

Read more of Doug’s work here: artsparksmusic.com


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